As a creative, it's important to understand your audience. But audiences change over time. And the latest demographic that we all need to consider is Generation Alpha: those born since 2010.
Award-winning brand design and innovation agency JDO has recently done some fascinating research to determine what makes Gen Alpha tick. And they've focused on the one thing that unites us all: food.
Their report focuses on the snacking habits of Generation Alpha: what they're eating and why. This article shares some key findings and what they tell us about this generation and their unique perspective on the world.
Who is Generation Alpha?
Before we get started, here's a quick refresher. Most of us remember a time when the youth audience that largely determined popular culture was made up of Millennials, aka Generation Y: those born between the early eighties and late nineties. But that time is now long past. Millennials have matured and are becoming parents, so the current focus is on Generation Z, born between the late nineties and the end of the 2000s.
Fast coming up behind them, though, is Generation Alpha: those born from 2010 onwards. And they've grown up in a very different world to the rest of us.
What's unique about Generation Alpha?
A few facts will illustrate this. Generation Alpha is the largest demographic to have grown up in homes without both biological parents. They're the largest demographic of foreign-born children in the US. They're the first non-native, non-white majority generation in US history. And once they reach their 20s, they'll inhabit a world with double the population of their parents'.
Born after the global financial crash of 2008, this young generation has been exposed to the rise in Populist politics, the ongoing global COVID pandemic, and the drive for racial and gender equality, all before they've reached adulthood.
Generation Alpha is also becoming activists for inequality and sustainability, using their "pester power" for good in the home. From the Climate Crisis to Black Lives Matter, alongside the devastation of COVID-19, this seems likely to create a more empathetic, resilient, tolerant and mindful generation than before.
How Generation Alpha eats
When it comes to the day-to-day business of eating and drinking, Generation Alpha again stands out. As society adheres less to strict, structured mealtimes, snacking has become the norm. Growth in snacks continues to outpace general food and beverage.
The main driving factors of this trend have been functionality, dietary alignment and experience. The latter are particularly sought after by the emerging Gen Alpha.
We've witnessed the rise of social media influences shaping what we eat, with two opposing themes of wellness and decadence. The former has been promoted by healthy food and lifestyle influencers, such as @pickuplimes and the latter by accounts, such as @bakerbynature, who promote more decadent eating.
In the US, snacking was on the rise during Covid-19, with 31% of consumers reporting an increase in snacking with an average of 7lbs of weight gained over three months. Similarly, 70% of UK families with children under five have reported that their little ones have been snacking more during the lockdown.
But it's not all bad news. In many ways, we're coming out of the other side of Covid to form healthier habits. Globally, over two-thirds of parents say they want to improve their children's eating habits.
Three food trends that attract Gen Alpha
To summarise these behaviours, we've identified three snacking trends that are attracting Generation Alpha and some examples of what they look like in practice.
1. Fuel me up: food that fuels
The "Fuel me up" trend is about functional food that releases steady energy over time. It's designed to help concentration, sustain energy levels throughout the day and much, much more. It is a balanced, considered, sustainable and mindful approach to snacking.
- Snacks tailored to be consumed through the day, keeping you ticking when you need it most
- Snacks delivering the very best combination of ingredients for their dense nutritional value and specific functional benefits
- Snacks that give an instant hit of much-needed energy without depleting the energy of the planet
2. Let us entertain you: fun food
The "Let us entertain you!" trend is about food that's fun. These are exciting experiential snacks to relieve boredom, delivering a feast for the senses through form, flavour, texture, and sensations while creating new playful rituals.
- Snacks that offer unexpected combinations of cultures and styles to bring new intriguing experiences
- Snacks that excite and entice with their interesting and unexpected flavours
- Snacks that deliver unexpected and exciting textures with every bite through innovative ingredients
3. Right on: food with the right values
The "Right on!" trend is about snacks that deliver on flavour and nutrition whilst also aligning with consumers' ethical values. Right on, snacks are fair-trade, with moderated portion sizes and clear, holistic benefits for you and the planet too.
- Snacks that are sustainable through their ingredients, process, product or packaging
- Snacks that make us think about the wider implications of our consumption and help us to be more responsible both socially and environmentally
- Snacks that raise awareness of a particular cause, delivering a message and inspire us to better ourselves
So what have we learned about Gen Alpha and their eating habits? Here's a quick summary of JDO's findings:
- With less strict, structured mealtimes, snacking has become the norm
- From school strikes to protesting against single-use plastics, Generation Alpha are the new activists in the home
- The more pester power parents are exposed to from their children, the greater we see a change in the desired direction
- We have come out of the pandemic with a desire for more healthy habits
- And Generation Alpha will seek out food and drinks that sustain their energy healthily, provide entertainment through engaging their senses or provide a more mindful, considerate way of eating.